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Pletcher hoping recent history repeats itself in the Tom Fool

ELMONT, N.Y. – In 34 previous editions of the Tom Fool Handicap, three-year-olds have been victorious only three times, most recently in 2000 when Todd Pletcher saddled Trippi to a 4½-length victory in the seven-furlong race.

Sunday, Pletcher is hoping history repeats itself when he sends out Michael B. Tabor’s sophomore star Munnings against four older horses in the Grade 2, $200,000 sprint at Belmont Park.

“It’s ambitious to try older horses at this time of year, but it’s our best option to keep him at a distance he likes and at a track he likes,” said Pletcher, noting that Plugged Nickle, in 1980, and Groovy, who won the first of his two consecutive Tom Fools in 1986, were the only other three-year-olds to win the race.

Munnings, who will carry 112 pounds including John Velazquez, will be getting a break in the weights from his older rivals, notably millionaire Fabulous Strike, who totes top weight of 123 pounds under Belmont Park’s leading jockey, Ramon Dominguez.

Although based at Penn National, Walter Downey’s Fabulous Strike is a familiar face to racing fans at Belmont Park, where he has fashioned a record of 4-1-0 from six starts, his last a 1¼-length victory in the Grade 2 True North Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day.

Trainer Todd Beattie is not thrilled with the distance – the six-year-old gelding has two second-place finishes in three starts at seven furlongs – but added: “There is not another choice going six.”

Repole Stable’s Driven by Success is coming off a solid third behind Bribon and Smooth Air after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap here on May 25. Prior to that, he was third to Kodiak Kowboy and Fabulous Strike in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The four-year-old gelded son of Precise End will be ridden in the Tom Fool by Rajiv Maragh, under whom he finished fifth as the favorite in the Toboggan at Aqueduct on March 7 after a rough trip.

“Aside from the Toboggan, all his races for us have been great,” said Bruce Levine, who has saddled Driven by Success to a 3-0-2 mark in six starts since taking over his training last year.

The race has also attracted Zayat Stables LLC’s four-year-old Riley Tucker, fifth in the Met Mile in his latest appearance. The son of Harlan’s Holiday was moved to trainer Bob Baffert’s stable after last season and has a pair of allowance victories at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs to his credit from four 2009 starts.

Completing the field is Mario Kot Racing’s The Last Wave, a four-year-old gelded son of Malibu Moon who is making his stakes debut coming off a trio of second-place finishes.

 

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